Superintendent

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Superintendent

From the Desk of Superintendent Brindley

Transportation News - Update

September 6, 2021

Dear Yellowjacket Families,

Recently we utilized ParentSquare, our autonotification system, to conduct a transportation survey. Thank you so much for the many responses that we received. Unfortunately, the survey did not yield enough responses to prepare comprehensive routes. As such, for the first few days of this school year, all students eligible for transportation (K-8 students residing .8 miles or more and students in Grades 9 through 12 residing 1.5 miles or more from the school in which they attend) will be routed for transportation. Many survey responses indicated that you will be self-transporting your child(ren) to and from school which is still encouraged as our community continues to contend with COVID-19. However, please note that even those of you who submitted a survey response indicating that your child would not need transportation service may still see a bus briefly stop in front of your home. The drivers will simply record who is using transportation and compile that list over the first few days of school. After a couple of days of this practice, Durham School Services will be able to truly define each bus run and establish consistent pick up and drop off times. 

In the meantime and early next week, we will share via ParentSquare and post to our Web site the times that buses will be in your residential area. However, to assist you, we are excited to share that you will be able to monitor the location of your child(ren)’s bus with the Durham Bus Tracker. With an iPhone, Android, or even your Web Browser, you will be able to view the location of your child’s bus in relation to your residence or bus stop. The app will even provide you with the scheduled arrival time of the bus. Important information about this opportunity may be found in the links:



Links to these documents are posted on the district's Transportation webpage: https://www.oneontacsd.org/Transportation.aspx

Lastly, I am excited to welcome Mr. Fred Ploutz to the position of Director of Facilities, Maintenance and Transportation. Aside from the many responsibilities of a Facilities and Maintenance Director, Mr. Ploutz will serve as a liaison between our district and our contracted transportation providers – Durham School Services. Mr. Ploutz will be a wonderful addition to our team and we are fortunate to have him serving in this capacity. With transportation questions or concerns, please contact Durham School Services at: 433-8205. If you do not reach them, please feel free to contact Mr. Ploutz (607) 433-8200 X1222 or myself (607) 433-8200 X1300.

Wishing you all safety, happiness, and health throughout this coming school year and well beyond…Tom Brindley

Welcome Back Fall 2021

August 23, 2021

 

Dear Yellowjacket Families,

 

The Oneonta City School District could not be more excited to welcome our students back for in-person instruction five days per week starting on September 9th. We are gearing up, getting ready, and getting excited about working with your children during the upcoming school year that will be filled with learning, classmates, and opportunity.  We have been working incredibly hard to fill vacancies and hire those that we feel will be able to forge positive relationships with our students as we all know that our students don’t care about what we teach them until they know that we care for them. We have hired nearly thirty-five new Yellowjackets to our school community all of whom are caring and passionate about doing what they can to contribute to the futures of those they serve.

The health and safety of all involved continues to be critically important. As such, the Oneonta City School District has employed a “layered mitigation strategy” which is a combination of safety measures designed to prevent or lessen the transmission of COVID-19 in school. COVID-19 and the Delta variant poses a formidable challenge. However, we are going to do our utmost to mitigate risk and keep our students in-person where they learn best. We recognize that all health and safety protocols are subject to change based on community transmission. 

As of this moment, the below represents how we will start the school year:

  • All students and staff will wear masks inside our school buildings based on the recommendations of the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Otsego County Department of Health. 
    • Please note that it is important that your child’s mask fit properly. Acceptable masks or those that seal well around one’s nose and mouth simultaneously. Acceptable facemasks do not include bandanas, face shields, Gaiters, or masks with valves or vents. Please continue to provide two acceptable facemasks that are properly sized with your child’s name on them daily.
  • Based on the current level of community transmission in our county, entry into our school will be reserved for students, faculty, staff, and support personnel except for a few structured events where physical distancing can be maintained. These events will be communicated to our families through their child’s building principal. 
  • All students and bus drivers will wear masks on buses by order of the CDC. However, the CDC has removed the requirement to physically distance students on school transportation. Our buses will operate with windows ajar and roof hatches open to facilitate ventilation - weather permitting.
  • Students and staff members are not required to wear masks outdoors unless, or when they will be within 3 feet of others, including during recess. In these instances, masks will be required. 
  • We are working with the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES on a remote option exclusively for those deemed “medically homebound” by a physician or a circumstance wherein the health of a child’s parent/guardian is such that consideration should be given for a student to receive remote instruction. Please remember to complete the remote learning survey shared with you on August 17th via ParentSquare by noon on Wednesday, August 25th if this applies to your family’s circumstances. Otherwise, remote learning will be reserved for COVID-related closures if they are deemed necessary. 
  • Daily health attestations on ParentSquare as well as temperature screenings are no longer required per the CDC. However, it is so incredibly important that all members of the school community remain proactive and stay home when they are not feeling well.
  • We will utilize seating charts in classrooms, lunches, and buses, when possible for contact tracing and quarantine purposes. 
  • According to current CDC guidelines, vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 as long as they are asymptomatic. 
  • Consistent with this past year, any student exhibiting a COVID-19 symptom, even one, will be taken to our Quarantine/Isolation room, be dismissed by the health office, and will need to follow up with their private provider and either be COVID tested, complete a 10-day isolation at home, or receive an alternate diagnosis from your healthcare provider.  Attached please find the CDC flow chart capturing this process for reference.
  • We will offer extracurricular activities while following all of the health and safety protocols in place during the school day. We recognize the importance of these opportunities for our students. Students perform better academically and are absent less when they feel a sense of connection to their school. We are ready and excited to offer these opportunities for our students in a safe manner in order to foster that connection and help students transition back into school as seamlessly as possible.
  • As always, the Oneonta City School District will continue to monitor the level of community transmission. We will continue to consult and work closely with the Otsego County Department of Health. However, please note that instruction and guidance from the Otsego County Department of Health can change the district’s guidelines regarding COVID-19 procedures. Should this happen, we will share any changes to protocols as soon as possible.     

The unfortunate reality remains that we have a ways to go regarding this pandemic and the challenges that it may pose. Our Yellowjacket community is strong and fortunate to have our students, parents, faculty and staff working together as we all do our best to make the 2021-2022 school year special while taking advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that the OCSD offers!

Please enjoy the rest of this summer and best wishes for a very healthy and successful school year ahead. As always, please feel free to call or email. 

 

Proudly and Appreciatively,

 

Thomas Brindley  

 

Mask Update 8.4.21

August 4, 2021

Dear Yellowjacket Parents/Guardians, Faculty and Staff,

As I draft this message, my hope remains that you are all well. I am writing to share that the Oneonta City School District has been informed that Otsego County has reached the “substantial transmission” designation for COVID-19. In the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once an area reaches this designation, masks should be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status. This is also a position supported by the Otsego County Department of Health. As such, the Oneonta City School District, effective immediately and until further notice, we will require that masks be worn indoors and on our buses regardless of vaccination status.

This is an unfortunate turn of events but one that will hopefully protect our students, staff, and their respective families as we continue to deal with this virus. 

Thank you for your understanding and stay well.

Mr. Thomas Brindley
Superintendent of Schools

June 25, 2021 
 
Dear Yellowjacket Parents/Guardians, 

We have arrived at the last day of school for the 2020-2021 school year. What a journey it has been. To say that the last eighteen months posed challenge after challenge for everyone would be an oversimplification of the realities that you all/we all were faced with. Yet, tomorrow we will graduate a group of amazing seniors who will go on to do and experience wonderful things. Because of a collective effort, our seniors will leave prepared for whatever their “next” is. You were all placed in an unfamiliar and uncertain world as you navigated through school that was so unlike anything that we’ve ever experienced. Your homes, businesses, and vehicles became classrooms. Thank you does not seem to truly capture the sentiment that I wish to express to you all.   

We all look forward to a September where school returns to the manner in which it works best. We are looking forward to full buses delivering all of our students to school five days a week where they can learn and work side by side with their peers and teachers. In a previous correspondence, I shared that we will not be hosting a remote learning option for the 2021-2022 school year. This continues to be our plan. With the lifting of New York’s pandemic-related State of Emergency, next school year certainly appears to be one in which we will find our Yellowjackets participating in a full array of co-curricular and/or extra-curricular activities with their loved ones and friends present to cheer them on. Before COVID-19, this would simply be a normal occurrence. Now, everyone being able to experience all that this school district has to offer takes on a sense of meaning and excitement that we have missed dearly. 

Also exciting is the manner in which the infusion of federal stimulus funds will enhance our district. Upon becoming the Superintendent, I had shared that our focus was going to be early intervention. Although COVID-19 caused us to pivot to address the myriad of challenges that this pandemic brought about, these stimulus funds will center us again as we endeavor to support all of our students, but allocate a portion of these resources specifically at our youngest students. As such, we will begin by hosting the K-12 Thrive-In-The-Hive summer school program. By doing so, we hope to reduce any gaps caused by the disruptions of COVID-19. In September, our plan is that each Kindergarten classroom will have a Licensed Teaching Assistant working alongside of our teachers. Together, they will work to identify, address, and remove academic obstacles from our youngest Yellowjackets. With the addition of one school psychologist, each of our respective buildings will now have a full-time school psychologist. We will enjoy the services of an additional social worker, and we will enhance our Academic Intervention programs at the middle and high school. All of these components will serve as multi-tiered approach to addressing the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students. The input that you have provided through your thoughtful responses to our recent survey coupled with the identified needs of our overall programming, have guided the allocation of these resources and for that – I thank you. 

The coordination behind such intervention is a tremendous undertaking. To assist us in this area, we are excited to be adding a Curriculum Coordinator who will work closely with Mrs. Coleen Moore, our Director of Curriculum and Instruction. By doing so, we will enjoy a truly coordinated approach to this intervention focus. Lastly, for many years now, I have assumed the responsibility of serving as the transportation director as well as overseeing facilities. A school district of this size needs someone whose sole focus can be on these two critically important elements. I did not want to allocate funds to a Director of Facilities and Transportation until I felt comfortable that the needs of our students and staff were being met.  Through your input and the incorporation of the aforementioned key components, we will have created a truly comprehensive K-12 program. The highly technologic systems that control our district’s “life systems” of heating, cooling, alarms, and ventilation, call for the attention of someone certified in these areas. As such, we will seek a Director of Facilities and Transportation for the Oneonta City School District. 

Again, I thank you for your input, your support, your sacrifices, your patience, and your understanding as together we worked through an incredibly challenging school year. Continued best wishes.
 
 A truly appreciative Superintendent of Schools,
 Thomas Brindley
 

 

June 6, 2021 

 

Dear Yellowjacket Community, 

On Friday, June 4, 2021, the New York State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, issued a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) which indicated that, absent information from the CDC  to the contrary, effective Monday, June 7, 2021, New York State public schools may lift the mask wearing requirement for students, staff, and visitors on school property.  As of today’s date, the CDC has not responded to this letter.  

Since the issuance of this letter, the New York State Education Department issued the following clarification:

SED has been in communication with Executive staff regarding the letter from Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health.  According to conversations with Executive staff, the intent of this letter was to obtain a response from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding differing standards for summer camps and schools; it has not changed any existing arrangements.  Therefore, schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice.  No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday, June 7 to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter.  

Based upon this clarification and while these agencies sort through this, the Oneonta City School District will remain a mask-wearing school district as has been the case throughout the school year. We will remain so until the CDC responds to Dr. Zucker’s letter and additional guidance is issued by the State. As this matter continues to evolve, we will promptly update you with any changes.  We are closing in on the end of an exceptionally challenging school year for all involved. As always, Thank You for your cooperation and support as we continue to safeguard the health and well-being of our students and staff.  

 Sincerely,

 Thomas Brindley

May 20, 2021 Updates: Masks, Covid-19 Screening, Athletic Spectators and more

May 20, 2021

Dear Yellowjacket Families, Friends, and Community Members:

There has been both legal and safety-related information recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and New York State related to a number of items. I wanted to share how these items impact us in the Oneonta City School District.


Masks: The CDC, and now New York State, has shared guidance that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face mask in most situations (with exceptions). Please note that this guidance has not changed for schools as masks are still required in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and all other school events.


COVID-19 Screening Protocols: All staff and students continue to be expected to answer the screening questions each day before coming to school and have their temperatures checked prior to entering their respective school building.

Athletic Spectators: With the increase in gathering size for outdoor events, we are no longer bound by the 2 spectator per athlete stipulation. With that said, please note that all spectators, coaches, volunteers, and athletes are still required to wear a face mask at all times and maintain appropriate social distancing.

Other Events: We recognize that family and friends are trying to plan for end of year events. At this time, we have planned for an outdoor Oneonta Middle School graduation and an outdoor Oneonta High School graduation. Both of these events will allow for 2 guests per graduate to attend in-person. We can seat this number of guests in the Lloyd Baker Field bleachers socially distanced. We will have virtual ceremonies for elementary awards/moving up celebrations. Specifics, if not already released, will be so shortly.

Marijuana/Cannabis: On March 31st, Governor Cuomo signed into law the legalization of the adult use of cannabis/marijuana. All Oneonta City School properties are bound by federal requirements under the Drug-Free School and Communities Act as well as the Drug-Free Workplace Act. This means that the use, possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis remain prohibited on all Oneonta City School District properties.

Next School Year: We are looking forward to opening our schools in September five days per week with all students in attendance. As such, we will not be hosting remote learning in the 2021-2022 school year. However, Otsego-Northern Catskills (ONC) BOCES is exploring the possibility of offering a remote option for the schools they serve for next year. To accurately determine our need for contracting with BOCES for this service, we will be sending a questionnaire to the parent(s)/guardian(s) of our current remote students seeking input regarding the opening of the 2021-2022 school year. Our school community has done a wonderful job throughout this pandemic in an attempt to keep our students, our staff, and the families that they return home to as safe and healthy as possible. We are very excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year in full capacity. As always, we will continue to monitor any and all safety measures/procedures recommended/stipulated by the State or County.

School Budget: With sincere appreciation, I am happy to report that the 2021-2022 school budget was passed on Tuesday by this incredibly supportive community.

Free and Reduced Meals: Although the United States Department of Agriculture has extended free lunch through the 2021-2022 school year, we are asking that if you are eligible for free or reduced meals this school year, PLEASE fill out the Free & Reduced Lunch Application 2020-21 that can found on our District website by visiting: Oneontacsd.org → “District” “Food Services” and under “Download/Files” please click on “Free & Reduced Lunch Application 2020-21”. Certain aid and resources for our schools can/may be diminished or lost if we do not accurately reflect the needs of our community. If eligible, please complete and return the form to: Oneonta City Schools, 130 East Street, Oneonta, NY 13820. Please call 607-433-8243 Ext. 2153, if you need any assistance in completing this form.


Please stay well and Thank You for your continuing support of the OCSD and GO Yellowjackets!!

April 1, 2021 NYS Testing & Emergency Days Update

April 1, 2021
Dear Yellowjacket Families,
First, we wish you all health and happiness during this holiday season. It is wonderful having our Kindergarten through Grade 5 students back in-person four days a week. We are looking forward to having our grades 6 through 12 students transition to four days a week of in-person instruction as well beginning on April 19th
I am writing to share updates on the following:
NYS Grades 3-8 ELA & Math & 4/8 Science Tests: 
  • Please note the NYS Education Department (NYSED) has submitted a formal request to the United States Department of Education (USDE) to waive state testing requirements at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Pending a decision from the USDE regarding NYSED’s waiver request our plan for 3-8 testing will be the following:
    1. The ELA and Math grades 3-8 exams will be single-session tests.  
    2. Tests have been reduced in length by the removal of the embedded multiple-choice field test questions.
    3.  Lab practical is not required as part of the Grades 4 & 8 Science assessment.
    4. Those students designated as “FULLY REMOTE” are not required to attend school to test.  However, if a student who is designated as “FULLY REMOTE” wishes to take the exam, the parent should notify their building principal so that accommodations may be made.
    5. You will be receiving specific information from your child’s Principal about the testing schedule and test procedures. Please contact them if you have any questions. I encourage all students to participate in the assessment process. Your child’s scores on the state tests will not affect their grades and it is one more opportunity to understand student learning and plan for the future for your children, our students. The dates for the aforementioned tests are: 
      • April 29th ELA
      • May 13th Math
      • June 8th Science 
Regents Exams:
  • NYSED has cancelled the August administration of Regents Exams.
  • NYSED has also applied for a waiver from the USDE to cancel the June administration of Regents Exams citing the challenges that COVID has presented for students around the State. The USDE has not yet ruled on this. As such, NYSED is planning to administer the following Regents Exams: 
    1. Algebra I, Earth Science (just the written test), English Language Arts, and Living Environment. Schools have been informed by NYSED that they will inform us of those exact dates at some time in the next couple of weeks.
    2. Please note that if the USDE grants this waiver to NYSED, the June Regents will be cancelled as well. 
    3. Please use the below link to view the March 19th memo from The State Education Department regarding this information: The State Education Department Memo.
 Emergency Days
 We still have four emergency days that we need to use before the end of this school year. As such, please note that the following dates will serve as non-instructional days (NO SCHOOL):
  1. Wednesday, May 19th
  2. Friday, May 28th
  3. Wednesday, June 9th
  4. Friday, June 18th in observance of Juneteenth.
*In the event that there is a need to use an emergency day not listed above, changes will be made accordingly and notification will be sent.
   
Substitute Teachers Needed
Lastly, we are still in need of substitutes to work in our district. To apply for this opportunity please submit your application through https://olasjobs.org/.
Thank you all so much.
Please stay well and best wishes.
Thomas Brindley
 

March 8, 2021 Shift to 4 Day In-Person Instructional Week

March 8, 2021

Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Guardians, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

I am hoping that this letter finds you and your families well. I am writing to share that we are planning to bring both student cohorts in-person four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). I understand that this will be welcome news to some and concerning for others. It is exactly for this reason that our remote learning option will remain as is.

  • Grades Kindergarten through 5th will transition to this four day per week model beginning Monday, March 29th.

  • Grades 6-12 will transition to this four day per week model beginning Monday, April 19th. 
Since the onset of this pandemic, this school district has employed a very safety-focused approach and plan. That will not change as we will continue to take measures to mitigate the risk of spread. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and that reality does not change. As such, we recognize that some families of children with underlying health conditions and those who may be in quarantine may wish, or will need, to keep their child(ren) in remote learning. Again, the current model of remote learning will remain in place.

We will remain a 100% mask wearing school district. Although we may not be able to keep our students a full six feet apart from one another in every classroom, 100% mask wearing will help mitigate risk.  The twelve-foot distance regulation for physical education and music education will remain in place until New York State relaxes those requirements. (My hope is that the considerable lobbying and advocacy taking place to address physical distancing in general and special education classrooms in New York State will soon extend to physical education and music education classes as well.)

You have entrusted our district with the protection of your child(ren) when they are with us. Families have entrusted us to protect their loved ones who work in the Oneonta City School District. This is a tremendous responsibility and one that has guided every decision made relative to this pandemic. Protecting each other in the school setting and the families that our students and staff return to has resulted in 73% of the Oneonta City School District staff currently at full vaccination status or close to full vaccination status. It is likely that there will be additional positive cases and quarantining taking place in the future. We will address each case should they arise with health and safety at the forefront just as we have with the 60 previous positive cases in our district. 

To finalize our planning we will need a better idea of exactly who will be returning four days per week and those that will remain in remote learning. Please use the survey links below to indicate how your child will continue to receive instruction at least until May 21st. Because some families may have multiple children at different schools and/or multiple children with different experiences at the same school, please repeat the appropriate survey for each child in your family attending school in the Oneonta City School District.  (These links can also be found on the District website banner).

Elementary Survey: FIND ELEMENTARY SURVEY HERE
Survey Deadline Friday March 12, 2021 3:00 PM

Middle School/High School Survey: FIND HS/MS SURVEY HERE
Survey Deadline Friday, March 26, 2021, 3:00 PM
 
Please note that Durham School Services, the transportation company that the Oneonta City School District contracts with, is in need of bus drivers. We, the school district, are in need of substitutes teachers and licensed teaching assistants. If interested in driving a school bus part time, please visit: https://careers.nellc.com/oneonta-ny/driver-in-training/70ACE9A77BF74564808333E24AF2E3E2/job/ .

If interested in being a substitute in the Oneonta City School District, we could certainly use your help. Please call us at 607-433-8200. 

We are all looking forward to a time when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, and this step of returning students to in-person learning four days a week gets our students closer to that goal emotionally, academically, and socially. 
As always, thank you all for your continued support and understanding as we continue to work our way through these unusual circumstances.
 
Sincerely,

Thomas Brindley

December 15, 2020 Emergency Day Notice


December 15th,  2020     
               
Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, Faculty and Staff,

I truly hope that this letter finds you well. 

I am writing to share a couple of items with you. First, please note that on our District website, https://www.oneontacsd.org/Default.aspx  we maintain up to date COVID-19 tracking relative to our staff and students. After visiting the site and clicking the link: “Coronavirus Information” in our orange alert bar, our COVID Dashboard will appear with up to date COVID numbers. Yesterday morning, the OCSD received confirmation of another positive COVID student. This marks the District’s 30th confirmed case. Thus far, ten staff members and twenty students have tested positive for the virus. Last week, we saw a dramatic increase in positive cases. On Friday alone, we received notice of six new confirmed cases among our students. Luckily, our remote instruction model resulted in no school-related exposure risks. I am also relieved to report that among all thirty cases, those infected have or are recovering well which is great news. We will continue to update the COVID Dashboard as we receive information from the Otsego or Delaware County Departments of Health.

I am also writing regarding the use of emergency days this school year. As you may be aware, the State has allowed school districts to use remote instruction in lieu of emergency days. This poses several challenges for school districts including feeding children and the recognition that many of our faculty and staff continue to work from our buildings due to connectivity issues where they reside. We have faculty and staff who travel 30, 40, or even 50 miles to school each day. As such, if the weather warrants, we will utilize emergency days.

As there is increasing concern of a coastal low pressure system impacting our weather in some way tomorrow into Thursday, I wanted to write and share that should there be concern related to travel moving forward, we will “call” a snow day and there will be no remote instruction for that day. The process for the use of an emergency day will be the same as always in that you will receive a SchoolMessenger auto notification as early as possible. If you have ever wondered how those decisions are made: When there is concern of inclement weather or there is active weather, I take a quick drive through our district’s main thoroughfares to assess road conditions. Then, at around 4:45 am., I speak with our town highway superintendent, our city department of public works, the Oneonta Police, and our Durham Transportation Service bus terminal manager to get their assessment as well. All of this informs those decisions.

I will continue to monitor the weather and inform you all in the event that the use of an emergency day is warranted. 

Wishing all of our Yellowjacket families wonderful health, happiness, and safety throughout this holiday season and always.    
 
Sincerely,
 
Thomas Brindley 

November 24 Extension of Remote Instruction


November 24th,  2020      
              
Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

I am writing to share additional COVID-19 concerns and a very important announcement relative to instruction. This is an extremely difficult decision to make but feel as though it is best for the Yellowjacket community. Please note the following:

  • ALL OCSD schools will go fully remote until Tuesday, January 19th
  • We will follow our remote instruction schedule during this time and return to hybrid instruction on January 19th.  
  • Please note that all New Visions students will continue to attend their program.
  • All BOCES CTE (Career and Technical Education) students will continue to attend their programs as usual during this time.
  • All Full Day BOCES students will continue to attend their programs as normal.
  • Meal distribution will continue to take place at our designated meal distribution points on Wednesdays.
The below represent some of the contributing factors leading to this decision:

  • Concerns associated with our community’s rising COVID-19 cases, recent cases that have affected our schools, uncertainty of what the holiday impact may have on COVID cases, need to establish a bit of educational stability and consistency during this time. 
  • We have learned of a fifth confirmed positive COVID-19 staff member and one confirmed positive student. Two staff members work out of Riverside Elementary, one out of Greater Plains Elementary, and one who is shared between two schools. The student is enrolled in the high school. The impact of this information has resulted in substantial quarantining.
  • As always, we immediately began working with the Department of Health to contact trace.
  • As of today, we currently have 81 students in quarantine total. Please note that these are not all related to today’s update. 
  • We have 27 staff members in quarantine who are also not all related to these new positives. 
  • We are seeing testing sites booking two days out and results slow to come back.
  • It appears as though the contact tracers as well as the Otsego County Department of Health are doing the very best they can but are facing tremendous challenges with the rising cases.
  • The Department of Health has expressed concern relative to our district as we are seeing a rise in those who are symptomatic. The DoH has referred to Oneonta as the “epicenter” of this outbreak. 
  • Our community is witnessing its highest COVID-19 positive numbers outside of what we experienced with the college spike.
As always, health, safety, and educational stability and sustainability inform these difficult decisions. This is a challenging situation that we all find ourselves in. What is certain is that the community spread of this illness is on the rise and that is concerning. Each day presents a different set of circumstances impacting our capability to work with our students. The uncertainty and use of these rolling and precautionary remote periods of late are difficult for our collective school community to navigate. My hope is that this pause in our hybrid learning model and transition to full remote will give us some necessary educational stability, provide an opportunity to limit exposure risks, and an opportunity to assess the impact of the holidays on our community and schools. I feel that our bouncing in and out of hybrid and remote instruction is educationally unsound and I feel that it will only continue as we work our way through the holidays. Of equal importance is the opportunity for you and your families to plan accordingly and not have to wonder what mode of instruction our schools will be in on any given day for a period of time. I recognize that this decision will lead to challenges but feel that it is the prudent one to make under these current circumstances. 

As I am sure is true for you, I am anxious for the opportunity for us all to be back in our schools together without the angst and uncertainty associated with COVID-19. We all long for the day wherein our school community can be one again so that all can take advantage and enjoy all that the OCSD offers. Again, difficult circumstances but I wish all of our Yellowjacket families much happiness, safety, and health throughout the holiday season, and well beyond. I give thanks to all those who work and put themselves in harm’s way for our health and benefit.  

In appreciation,

Thomas Brindley 

November 23 Letter: Holiday Travel


November 23, 2020

Dear OCSD Parent(s)/Guardian(s)/Faculty and Staff:

As Thanksgiving is upon us, I wanted to write and share the travel guidelines recently released by New York State.  

I believe that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the impact that holiday travel may have on the spread of COVID-19. As you are well aware, we are seeing cases on the rise in this community that are impacting our school district. We will continue to monitor the collective health of our area and work closely with the Otsego County Department of Health. As always, we will make decisions relative to instruction that are safety focused. New York State has released travel protocols for all residents. I wanted to share the highlights with you as we enter into this holiday season: 

For any traveler entering New York State from another state, exempting the contiguous states, the new guidelines for travelers to test-out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine are below:

  • For travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours:
    • Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state.
    • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
    • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain seek another COVID test. If both tests come back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.

  • For travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours:
    • The traveler does not need a test prior to their departure from the other state, and does not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York State.
    • However, the traveler must fill out the traveler information form (can be located at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory) upon entry into New York State, and take a COVID diagnostic test 4 days after their arrival in New York.

Local health departments will validate tests, if necessary, and if a test comes back positive, will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing. The local health department must make contact with the state the traveler came from in order to ensure contact tracing proceeds there as well. All travelers must continue to fill out the traveler information form upon arrival into New York State.
 
Please be mindful of these travel guidelines if traveling as well as receiving travelers into your homes. 

Please know that the OCSD continues to ensure that the established protocols and regular cleaning of the buildings continue and are designed to provide an environment that is as safe and healthy as we can. However, our region is seeing some concerning COVID trends. As such, we all need to continue to make good choices to keep each other safe and healthy.  Please contact me with any questions you may have.

For now, please be safe and best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you and your families.
                                                                  
Thomas Brindley

November 18 Positive COVID-19 Case


November 18, 2020

Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

As we are all well aware of the rising COVID-19 cases around New York State and elsewhere, I am writing to share important information about COVID-19 concerns. Please note the following:
  • Today, Wednesday, November 18th, 2020, the OCSD was made aware that we have a positive COVID-19 staff member at the Oneonta Middle School. We have also learned that several of our staff members are close contacts to two additional positive COVID cases resulting in substantial quarantining.
  • We immediately began working with the Department of Health to contact trace.
  • Those impacted by these cases will be quarantined through the Thanksgiving break.  
  • These new cases have some substantial impact on several of our buildings. 
  • ConsequentlyAll OCSD schools will go fully remote beginning tomorrow November 19th through at least Monday, November 30th All OCSD students should prepare to follow their schedule remotely during the above listed dates.
  • Please note that all New Visions students will continue to attend their program.
  • All BOCES CTE (Career and Technical Education) students will attend their programs as usual during this time.
  • All Full Day BOCES students will attend their programs as normal.
  • BOCES students will be receiving an auto notification around 6 pm this evening regarding transportation to and from BOCES.
  • Meal distribution will continue to take place at our designated meal distribution points on Wednesdays.
  • Staff members as well as families of students who meet the criteria for close contact, as determined by the DoH, will receive phone calls from the Department of Health or by someone from the District.
As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and this community inform these difficult decisions. This is a fluid situation as has been the case since March. If safe, and IF we have the staffing to return to our hybrid schedule, we will return to school on Monday, November 30th, 2020.  This may change and if an extended period of remote learning is warranted to safeguard our students, staff, and our families, I will again notify you all. I appreciate your understanding in this matter and as odd as it seems under these circumstances, I certainly wish you and your families health and happiness this Thanksgiving and always.

In appreciation,
Thomas Brindley 

November 15 Greater Plains COVID case


November 15th,  2020

Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

I am writing to share important information about a COVID-19 concern. Please note the following:
  • Tonight, Sunday, November 15th, 2020, the OCSD was made aware that we have a positive COVID-19 student enrolled at Greater Plains Elementary.
  • We immediately began working with the Department of Health to contact trace.
  • The result is that both students and a host of Greater Plains staff will need to quarantine until at least November 20th
  • As we have been struggling to fill COVID-related precautionary absences among our staff, this situation places us in a position where we cannot fill these additional vacancies. 
  • Consequently, Greater Plains Elementary School will go fully remote beginning tomorrow November 16th through at least Friday, November 20th All Greater Plains Elementary students should prepare to follow their schedule remotely during the above listed dates.
  • Riverside and Valleyview Elementary buildings will open as normal.
  • The Oneonta Middle School and the Oneonta High School will open as normal.
  • Staff members as well as families of students who meet the criteria for close contact, as determined by the DoH, will receive phone calls from the Department of Health or by someone from the District.
Lastly, this decision will only impact Greater Plains Elementary School. As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and community inform these difficult decisions. It is our goal to return to our hybrid schedule for Greater Plains on Monday, November 23rd, 2020.  If this changes I will notify everyone as soon as possible. I appreciate your understanding in this matter and will update our Yellowjacket community with further information.

In appreciation,
Thomas Brindley 

October 28, 2020 Rapid Testing Update


Dear Oneonta City School District Families, 

I am writing to share that we recently received information from the New York State Department of Health regarding tests designed to detect the COVID-19 virus. This new information will impact when a student, faculty, or staff member can return to in-person instruction. The New York State Department of Health has advised that a negative rapid test result is no longer sufficient and an additional test, (specimen sent to a lab for evaluation) will need to be performed to confirm the rapid test results. This change will undoubtedly lengthen the period of time that someone will be absent from in-person instruction. 

Please note the bulleted process for COVID-19 testing below and the updated Return to School process below:
  • If a rapid test is conducted:
    1. Positive results-no confirmatory test required (Unless required by the Department of Health)
    2. Negative result- confirmatory test required
  • Students/Faculty/ Staff cannot return to school based on a negative rapid test alone, they must also provide proof of a negative confirmatory test as well.
 
Return to school protocol for Students/Faculty/Staff:
  • May not return until:
    • Cleared by a physician to return to school with documentation indicating alternate diagnosis and that Covid-19 is not suspected
    • Tested and found Covid-19 free (negative test – No Longer can be just a rapid test)
      • Been feeling well and fever free without medication for at least 24 hours
      • And documentation of a negative test is provided to the school
    • Diagnosed with Covid-19 (positive test): 
      • 10 days isolation from onset of symptoms.
      • Feeling well and fever free without medication for at least 72 hours.
      • And, released by the DOH. Student/staff will receive release documentation to provide to the school.
    • If you are unable to be evaluated by a physician or obtain test results within 48 hours of onset of symptoms student/staff will be presumed positive (DOH will be notified) and unable to return to school until:
      • negative test result received, feeling well, and fever free for 24 hours without use of medication
      • positive test result received and released from isolation by DOH
 
Thank you so much. We will forward any future updates as we receive them. Continued health and safety to you all.  
 
Sincerely,
Thomas Brindley

COVID Update

October 22nd, 2020

Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

I am writing to share important follow-up and new information about a COVID-19 concern. Please note the following:
  • Yesterday, we were made aware of the high probability of a positive case with one of our high school faculty members.
  • We worked with our Department of Health partners and took measures to protect our school community by going fully remote in the middle and high school for today and Friday.
  • I am happy to report that this suspected case is, in fact, negative.
  • However, we have just learned that one of our high school faculty members, in what appears to be an unconnected case, has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • We have already engaged in a collaborative fashion with the Department of Health and the teacher to identify who might be deemed to have been in close contact with this faculty member.
  • Parents/guardians of students in this teacher’s class in the Blue Cohort, have been notified through an autonotification of this occurrence if determined that their child is considered in close contact to the affected teacher, they would be receiving a call from the Otsego County Department of Health and/or someone from the school district. This autonotification is not intended to alarm but to simply inform parents or guardians of students specific to the affected teacher and have this initial contact to our families come from our school district as opposed to a call from the DoH.  ***Please note that as I compose this update, I have heard from the Department of Health that NO student or any faculty/staff member is deemed a “close contact” to the affected teacher*** This is good news but we will continue to monitor this and all health and safety matters.
  • The Oneonta Middle School and Oneonta High School will remain fully remote for Friday, October 23rd.   All 6-12 students should prepare to follow their schedule remotely on these two days.
  • All elementary buildings will open as normal.
  • All Day BOCES students will attend their BOCES classes. 
  • Oneonta students will NOT attend CTE courses at BOCES on Friday.
  • New Visions students WILL attend program on Friday. Students can meet in front of the high school at 8:15 am. and the bus will transport from there. 
  • Meals will be served in the elementary buildings as usual.
Thank you ALL again. It is our goal to return to our hybrid schedule for all grades on Monday, October 26th, 2020.  If there any further actions that need to be employed to safeguard our school community related this this situation, I will send an additional update.
In appreciation,
Thomas Brindley

HS/MS Fully Remote 10/22-10/23


October 21st,  2020

Dear Oneonta City School District Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Community,

I am writing to share important information about a COVID-19 concern. Please note the following:
  • Today, Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, we were made aware that although no official results as of yet, there is a high probability of a positive case with one of our high school faculty members.
  • As we await test confirmation, we will continue to work with the Department of Health to contact trace should that need arise.
  • Out of an abundance of caution and as we await test confirmation and work with the Otsego County Department of Health, the Oneonta Middle School and Oneonta High School will go fully remote for the remainder of this week (Thursday 10/22 & Friday 10/23). All 6-12 students should prepare to follow their schedule remotely on these two days.
  • All elementary buildings will open as normal.
  • All Day BOCES students will attend their BOCES classes. 
  • Oneonta students will NOT attend CTE courses at BOCES on Thursday or Friday.
  • NO New Visions on Thursday or Friday 
  • Once contact tracing is completed and if the result of this particular COVID-19 test is positive, Faculty and staff members as well as families of students who meet the criteria for close contact, as determined by the DoH, will receive phone calls from the District and will be contacted by the DoH.
  • For those OMS and OHS students in need of meals for Thursday and Friday, there will be a meal distribution tent in front of the Oneonta Middle School on Thursday from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm.  
  • Meals will be served in the elementary buildings as usual.
Lastly, this decision will only impact grades 6-12. As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and community inform these difficult decisions. It is our goal to return to our hybrid schedule for all grades on Monday, October 26th, 2020.  I appreciate your understanding in this matter and will update our Yellowjacket community with further information.
In appreciation,
Thomas Brindley 

Welcome Back!

October 9, 2020

Dear Yellowjacket Families,

It is with great anticipation that I share the following information in advance of our transition to our hybrid model to begin on Tuesday, October 13th. It will be great to have students back in the buildings after almost exactly seven months. 

In August, the Oneonta City School District presented its initial OCSD Reopening Framework wherein it was established that the 2020-2021 school year would open remotely and transition to a hybrid format on October 13th, if the collective health of our community permitted it. Although this pandemic presents a substantial fluidity to most aspects of our lives, our community is fortunate in that the community spread of our local outbreak appears limited. As such, this transition to this limited degree of in-person instruction is a relief. Our transition plan is encouraged by our Otsego County Department of Health partners. Please find our newly revised OCSD Reopening Framework located on our webpage. We are very excited to be in a position to be able to offer this opportunity to our students. 

This will truly be a team effort as we work together to do everything we can to keep each other safe and healthy along the way. Our schools function at an optimal level when we all feel safe. It is for this reason that we must:
  • Faithfully complete the morning health screening daily. 
  • Provide two acceptable facemasks with your child’s name on them daily. 
  • Share with your child(ren) that mask wearing is not optional in this reopening plan.
  • Provide friendly reminders of the importance of respecting the physical distancing guidelines in place.
  • Sharing the importance of good respiratory and hand washing hygiene.
  • Adhering to the established drop off times contained in the Framework.
  • For those with students who will be receiving busing; please find the Bus Routes here on our Transportation webpage.
NOTE: If you have any questions or concerns about bus routes, call Durham School Services at: 607-433-8205 and press 2 when prompted for the Terminal Manager. 

As we progress through this pandemic, the status of the collective health of our community may/can change quickly causing us to switch to remote learning. I hope that this does not occur, but as a school district, we are ready in any event. 
 
This hybrid transition will be tricky for us all. I have heard some refer to hybrid instruction as trying to build an airplane while it is airborne. We are going to do our very best to maintain the consistency and the momentum of what we are doing now while our devoted teachers do their best to balance the challenge of teaching students in person while simultaneously ZOOMING with our remote learners. Ultimately, we want to provide what it is that our students are doing now in terms of a daily schedule and instruction so that you as parents / guardians know what to expect when your child is learning remotely. Please see page 80 in the Framework, for our Quick Guide for answers and guidance on students who become COVID-19 symptomatic

We still have a ways to go regarding this pandemic and the challenges that it may pose for schools and all other facets of our lives. However, this Yellowjacket community is strong and looking forward to taking this next step in our reopening plan!

Please continued best wishes for health and safety. Thank you...Thomas Brindley

Hybrid Transition Information

September 24, 2020   
                        
Dear Parents/Guardians,
I hope that this letter finds you all safe and well. Here is further information for our tentative return to face-to-face instruction on October 13th.
 
  • An email with your student(s) cohort was sent September 22nd.
  • The deadline to make an instructional decision has been extended to Wednesday, September 30th.
Your next steps are:
  1. Please start on our For Parents web page, and navigate to “Instruction as of 10/13/20”. There you will find details of each of the instructional models.
  2. If you did not receive your child’s color cohort assignment, please call 607-433-8200 and reach out to your child’s school to obtain that information. 
  3. Please provide your child’s school with the correct contact information for all guardians to ensure that you receive any future communications.
  4. Submit your instructional decision for each child by clicking the appropriate link on the Hybrid Instruction” web page https://www.oneontacsd.org/HybridInstructionInformation.aspx
We are excited to welcome our students back! This is unchartered territory and will pose challenges during this transition. We set the bar high in this school district and we will continue to offer the very best product that we can to our students under these difficult circumstances. We understand there may be many questions that revolve around reopening. While we may not have all the specific details about each classroom’s hybrid experience, please feel free to contact the school and we will answer as many of your questions about the framework as possible.
 
We appreciate your cooperation and partnership in these incredibly challenging times for schools. You have all been very patient and understanding along the way and for this, we are grateful. Best wishes for continued health and safety and please contact me if I can be of assistance in any way during this process or at any time moving forward.
 
Please take care…Tom Brindley
 

Fall 2020 Reopening Plan

August 3, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians:

I am writing to share that our District’s Pandemic Reopening Plan has been posted to our District website.  Please be aware that this is a document that was required to be submitted to the New York State Education Department and New York State Department of Health but remains a work in progress and is subject to change as we await an official announcement from the governor. Many factors could alter the scope of this framework including Executive Orders from the governor, directives and recommendations from the New York State Department of Health, or the Otsego County Department of Health.

Even though I knew better, I truly looked forward to our high school graduation thinking that the uncertainty and craziness that was the 2019-2020 school year would be behind us. However, we know that there remains tremendous uncertainty ahead of us. Working through the “What Ifs” toward a reopening plan has been incredibly difficult. There are simply NO good options. We all want our students back in our brick and mortar buildings. Unfortunately, when school district leaders are being asked to make these decisions based on, among other criteria, how many hospital beds are available in our communities, the decision to reopen a school district takes on a different meaning. Having thousands of college students move into our community during a time where we are simply in no better position than we were last March relative to this illness is quite concerning. Creating a phasing in approach allows us to monitor what impact the influx of these young adults may have on the collective health of our community seems most appropriate. As such, we will remain in the remote learning environment to start the 2020-2021 school year. We will reevaluate this model as we approach the Interim Progress Report period of October 9th

Opening schools in anything other than a fully in-person schedule creates many hardships. This framework details a remote learning opening to the 2020-2021 school year that we recognize will be difficult for many. However, as mentioned in the framework, it is our main intention to safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff members, and by extension the collective health of our community. This has been and continues to be a difficult time for all of us. During the initial school closure, many of our district parents and guardians were able to work from home, while others left their jobs in order to educate children at home.  Educators were quickly placed into an environment where they needed to learn new learning management systems and teach from home while also assisting their own children who were learning in this manner as well. It has also been tremendously difficult for our students who have not had the face-to-face time with their teachers or the social interaction with their peers that we know are so important. 

The health and safety of students and staff are our top priority. While this plan is in compliance with the requirements set by the New York State Education Department which serve as baseline stipulations, there are occasions wherein we feel that adherence to a more stringent approach as recommended by the New York State Department of Health and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safeguards our school community stakeholders better. Please know that the guidelines and protocols that have been established are not flexible. As a school district, we have kept safety first and foremost and we will continue to do so. 

The Reopening Framework posted on our District’s website, contains information about our phased in approach to the opening of school for the 2020-2021 school year as well as many safety procedures, protocols, and expectations. It also contains information about the three formats under which we may be attending school at some point throughout this school year. Please note that there is also a “Quick Guide” that I hope will answer many questions that you might have. My hope is that by this school year’s end, we find ourselves fully opened with the medications and vaccines in place to protect us all. 

Thank you for your cooperation and continued understanding during this time. I am appreciative to all of our faculty, staff, community partners, and our parents and guardians who have provided input that informed this framework. I recognize that for many, reopening remotely is not desirable and I respect that position. 

We have begun providing professional development and meetings designed to culminate with the information that our students/families, and faculty and staff will need in order to create a standards-based and meaningful educational experience. There will be other correspondence from this school district or your child’s respective school(s) with specific information. 

For now, I continue to wish all of our OCSD families good health. As always, please do not hesitate to call or email me with any questions (office: 607-433-8200 X-1301 or tbrindley@oneontacsd.org). 

2021-2022

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